Going to the ATA Conference in Chicago? You may want to read this.

October 9, 2014 § 15 Comments

Dear Colleagues:

The ATA Annual Conference is just around the corner, and this year it will be in beautiful Chicago. As many of you know, I live in Chicago and consider it a wonderful place to live and work. Obviously, I was very happy to learn that so many of my interpreter and translator friends and colleagues would be visiting Chicago this year. Finally, I thought, many of you would get to see the city that I brag so much about. It just does not get any better than this: The mother of all conferences and the beautiful town!

Unfortunately, as the dates of the conference were announced, I realized that once again ATA had scheduled the event for November. I never missed an ATA conference as long as they were held in October, but November is not a good month for me; it is a time of many important professional commitments. I tried two years ago in San Diego (the last time I presented in ATA) where I attended the conference for one day and then flew back to the east coast for work-related reasons. Last year I could not make it to San Antonio because of the November dates either. So here we are now, with the biggest conference in our field taking place in my hometown, and with me away from the city for the duration of the event. After this reality sank in, I decided to find a way to make sure that those of you who will be attending the conference could get the best out of our town; in other words: I needed to figure out a way to welcome you to Chicago without being physically there. This is what I came up with. For the next paragraphs I am going to take you through Chicago, I am going to provide you valuable and useful information, and I am going to recommend several places and activities the same way I wanted to do it in person when I first realized that ATA was coming to town. Here it is: from me, to you.

GETTING TO THE SHERATON TOWERS FROM THE AIRPORT.

From O’Hare:

O’Hare is located about 45 minutes away from the hotel.

Arriving on a domestic flight

By Taxi: Go outside the terminal on the same level where you will claim your luggage. There are booths where you can get a taxi (lines may be pretty long depending on the time of the day) A ride to the hotel should be around $55.00 – $60.00 All taxis take credit cards in Chicago.

By Shuttle: Go to the GO Airport Express desk on the same level where you claim your luggage and buy a ticket (round-trip suggested as fare is lower than a one-way ticket) Round trip fare: $54.00 per person. You can pay cash or by credit card, and you can even buy the tickets online from home. The ride to the hotel could take about 90 minutes as these shuttles stop at many hotels. There is no Super Shuttle in Chicago.

By Subway: After you get your luggage, follow the signs to the Blue Line subway terminal inside the airport. Take the blue line to Forest Park and get off at Washington Station (17 stops, about 50 minutes) walk to State Street and either take a taxi (5 minutes to hotel for about $8.00 to $10.00) or take City Bust #29 to Navy Pier and get off at Columbus (about 7-10 minutes) Then walk one block south to the hotel. Subway: $3.50 per person one-way. City bus: $3.25 per person one-way. Subway, L Train, and city buses do not take cash. You will need to purchase a ticket from the machines at the station, or a CTA card for your entire stay at any Walgreens Drug Store. The Blue Line station at O’Hare has machines that take credit cards.

Arriving on an international flight

You will arrive at Terminal 5.

By Taxi: After immigration and customs, Walk outside the terminal and get a taxi from the booth. A ride to the hotel should be around $60.00 – $65.00 All taxis take credit cards in Chicago.

By Shuttle: After immigration and customs, Walk outside the terminal and go to the GO Airport Express booth. You may have to wait for a shuttle for several minutes. If there is no clerk at the booth, dial the phone number on the sign and they will send a shuttle to pick you up. When the booth is unmanned, you can buy the ticked directly from the driver (round-trip suggested as fare is lower than a one-way ticket) Round trip fare: $54.00 per person. You can pay cash or by credit card, and you can even buy the tickets online from home. If you do not want to wait for the shuttle to arrive to Terminal 5, after clearing immigration and customs, you can take the airport train to Terminal 3 (it is free) go to the lower level, and get your tickets at the GO Airport Shuttle desk. (The ride to the hotel could take about 90 minutes as these shuttles stop at many hotels. There is no Super Shuttle in Chicago.

By Subway: After immigration and customs, take the airport train to Terminal 3 (it is free) go to the lower level, and follow the signs to the Blue Line subway terminal inside the airport. Take the blue line to Forest Park and get off at Washington Station (17 stops, about 50 minutes) walk to State Street and either take a taxi (5 minutes to hotel for about $8.00 to $10.00) or take City Bust #29 to Navy Pier and get off at Columbus (about 7-10 minutes) Then walk one block south to the hotel. Subway: $3.50 per person one-way. City bus: $3.25 per person one-way. Subway, L Train, and city buses do not take cash. You will need to purchase a ticket from the machines at the station, or a CTA card for your entire stay at any Walgreens Drug Store. The Blue Line station at O’Hare has machines that take credit cards.

From Midway:

Midway airport is located about 30 minutes away from the hotel.

Ground transportation process is the same for international and domestic flights

By Taxi: Go outside the terminal on the same level where you will claim your luggage. There are booths where you can get a taxi (lines may be pretty long depending on the time of the day) A ride to the hotel should be around $35.00 – $40.00 All taxis take credit cards in Chicago.

By Shuttle: Go to the GO Airport Express desk on the same level where you claim your luggage and buy a ticket (round-trip suggested as fare is lower than a one-way ticket) Round trip fare: $46.00 per person. You can pay cash or by credit card, and you can even buy the tickets online from home. The ride to the hotel could take about 45 minutes as these shuttles stop at many hotels. There is no Super Shuttle in Chicago.

By Subway: After you get your luggage, follow the signs to the Orange Line L train terminal connected to the airport. Take the orange line on the only possible direction and get off at State/Lake Station (13 stops, about 40 minutes) This is an elevated train. You must go down to the street level to State Street and either take a taxi (5 minutes to hotel for about $8.00 to $10.00) or go to the bus stop in front of the Chicago Theatre (about 20 yards) and take City Bust #29 to Navy Pier and get off at Columbus (about 7-10 minutes) Then walk one block south to the hotel. Subway: $3.50 per person one-way. City bus: $3.25 per person one-way. Subway, L Train, and city buses do not take cash. You will need to purchase a ticket from the machines at the station, or a CTA card for your entire stay at any Walgreens Drug Store. The Orange Line station connected to Midway Airport has machines that take credit cards.

Alternate Hotels.

Those who do not wish to stay at the Sheraton Towers can stay at the Embassy Suites one block away (511 N. Columbus Drive) Some single room go for as low as $189.00 and breakfast/happy hour are included. There are many other rooms across the river from the Sheraton (Hyatt, Swissotel, Raddisson, etc., but their prices are equal or higher than those at the Sheraton).

WHERE TO EAT.

It is very difficult to come up with a “best restaurants” list in Chicago because there are so many great options. For this reason, I will share with you some of my favorites, and some of the best options near the Sheraton. Because the idea is for you to experience the local taste, I will leave out all chain restaurants. You can try those back home.

Tony’s best:

I believe there is no better restaurant in the Chicago area (and perhaps anywhere in the world) than 3-Michelin Star Alinea (1725 N. Halsted St. Open Wed-Sun) 18 course tasting menu for 2: $450.00 Reservations a must.

Frontera Grill. PBS’ Rick Bayless’ world famous restaurant (445 N. Clark St.) This place offers the best authentic Mexican food elevated to a higher artistic level. Rick is that famous chef you have watched for years on PBS’ “Mexico, One Plate at a Time”. Dinner for 2: $80.00 Reservations a must.

The Purple Pig. Great “tapas” style restaurant (not Spanish food) with a great wine selection (500 N. Michigan Avenue) Dinner for 2 depends on your appetite. Small dishes are the way to go. Reservations suggested.

Girl & the Goat. Great for sharing small plates. Many options for vegetarians (809 W. Randolph St.) Very popular with the locals. Dinner for 2: $60.00 Reservations suggested.

Tango Sur. A real parrillada argentina (3763 N. Southport Avenue). All meats with all the cuts from Argentina! Great chimichurri, empanadas, and yes, dulce de leche! Restaurant lets you bring your own wine. Dinner for 2: $60.00 Reservations encouraged.

Giordano’s. You have to try the real Chicago-style pizza. There are over 40 locations throughout Chicago, but the closest one to your hotel is within walking distance (730 N. Rush St.) Another option for real Chicago-style pizza is Pizzeria Uno (29 E. Ohio St) I know this is now a chain restaurant, but this is the place where it all started. Dinner for 2: $50.00

Portillo’s. If you are going to try the pizza, then you must try a Chicago-style hot dog. Portillo’s (100 W. Ontario St.) is the place to have the real thing. In case you do not know it, a Chicago dog is served on a poppy seed bun and it is topped with chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish, tomato slices, a dill pickle, sport peppers, celery salt, and mustard. If you value your life don’t ask for ketchup. Dinner for 2: $45.00

Parthenon. One of Chicago’s largest immigrant groups is our Greek community. There is very good Greek food in town, and there are plenty of places to eat. You can go to Greek town and enjoy a delicious meal just about anywhere; with this in mind, I decided to include in this post one of my favorites: Parthenon (314 S. Halsted St.) because of the food, the service and the looks. Dinner for 2: $80.00

GREAT RESTAURANTS WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE FROM THE SHERATON.

Yolk. The hotel has a decent restaurant for breakfast, but if you want to venture into the streets of Streeterville (that is the name of the neighborhood where I live and of your hotel) and positively have the best breakfast in town, walk two blocks to Yolk (355 E. Ohio St.) and enjoy. Because of its popularity, there is some waiting for an available table and they do not take reservations. The wait is outdoors, so I suggest that if you are used to warmer places, bring a jacket or a coat. Breakfast for 2: $40.00

Emilio’s. If you are looking for very good Spanish tapas, there is an excellent place less than 2 blocks from the hotel: Emilio’s (215 E. Ohio St) offers a wide variety of tapas and Spanish wines. This would be a great place for after the session gatherings as well. Dinner for 2: $80.00

Niu. Your hotel is less than one block from my favorite Japanese-fusion restaurant in town. Go to Niu (332 E. Illinois St.) and have some sushi or explore the fusion menu. They also have a good selection of sake. Dinner for 2: $100.00

Volare. If Italian is your thing, then go to Volare (201 E. Grand Ave.) It is about 4 blocks from your hotel and it is the Italian restaurant in this part of town where all locals go; and we go there for the food and service. Dinner for 2: $100.00 Reservations recommended.

Bandera. If your thing is good food, a nice jazz ensemble, and a great view of the Magnificent Mile, then you must dine at Bandera (535 N. Michigan Ave. First Floor) Sometimes I like to go to their very nice bar instead of their dining room. Dinner for 2: $100.00 Reservations recommended.

Sayat Nova. I know Armenian food may not be one of the most popular selections during the conference, but I had to include it because Sayat Nova (157 E. Ohio St.) is less than 4 blocks from your hotel and the food is very good. Dare yourself and try this place that is part of our Streeterville neighborhood character. Dinner for 2: $80.00 Reservations optional.

Ditka’s & Michael Jordan’s. I include this two places because of their owners: Two of Chicago’s icons. At Coach Ditka’s place (100 E. Chestnut St.) you can enjoy some of the best bread in town and perhaps meet the guy. Warning: This is a good 20 minute very enjoyable walk, so you may want to consider a taxi ($10.00) Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse (505 N. Michigan Avenue at the Intercontinental Hotel) is a lot closer than Ditka’s, and it offers some of the best hamburgers in Chicagoland. Both places are very crowded and you will probably wait for a table. Dinner for 2: $80.00

The Food Trucks. Another interesting thing to try for lunch are the food trucks that we have in Chicago. About a block from the hotel, in front of the University of Chicago’s Chicago Booth you can find these trucks Monday-Friday during lunch hours. Lunch: $20.00 (or less) per person.

BARS BY THE HOTEL.

There are many great bars around the Sheraton, even the hotel lobby bar (Chi Bar) offers a good variety of mixed drinks, but I suggest you get out of the hotel, walk right next door by the river side, and have a drink at Lizzie McNeil’s Irish Pub (400 N. McClurg Ct.), walk one block to Lucky Strikes where you can have a drink and do some bowling at the same time (322 E. Illinois St.) or walk 3 blocks to my favorite: Timothy O’Toole’s (622 N. Fairbanks Ct.) where you can catch a game on TV, have a microbrewery beer, and enjoy some good old bar food.

NIGHTLIFE.

Chicago never sleeps and it offers some of the best after hours activities. If you are a night owl I suggest you save some time to go to a blues or jazz establishment. I recommend Blue Chicago (536 N. Clark St.) for great blues every night. For some other cities you may consider that they start late and gets very crowded. There is an admission charge that depends on the band that is playing that night. If you prefer jazz, my favorite spot is the Jazz Showcase (806 S. Plymouth Ct.) it is a traditional place where you will be greeted by the owner. The music is wonderful and the drinks are good at this historic venue. There is an admission charge and a minimum. You will enjoy them both! If you want something more relaxed and early, I suggest the lobby bar of the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel (163 E. Walton Pl.) where you can enjoy a cocktail while listening to the piano bar music. No cover, no minimum, and very friendly bartenders (drinks are a little expensive). However, if you want to go where tourists go to see Chicago’s skyline from way up there, you need to go to the Signature Room (95th. Floor of the John Hancock Building). You can have a drink while admiring Chicago’s magnificent architecture, or if you prefer, you can have dinner way up there. For dinner: Reservations a must. Dinner for 2: $120.00

There are many places to go dancing in the area. You can look them all up on Yelp.

SIGHTSEEING.

There is so much to see and so little time. This will be the trip that will make you decide to come back as a tourist in the near future. A good way to see some of the main attractions is to get a ticket to the hop on-hop off bus. Tickets can be purchased at the Navy Pier (close to the hotel) and probably at the Sheraton. If you decide to do this, I suggest you sit on the top floor so you can see the tall buildings, and you will definitely need a coat, a hat, and gloves because it will get cold on the top. Chicago is built for walking, so I definitely encourage you to walk the city. Walk the Magnificent Mile and see all the designer shops and boutiques, stop and see the hundreds of fragments from all important buildings in the world that decorate the walls of the Chicago Tribune Building, and take your picture with the Wrigley Building behind you; walk by the beach (yes, we have beaches in Chicago!) and see the waves breaking against the wall barrier, walk by the Navy Pier and see the sailboats (if there are any left by November) walk in the business center (the loop) and admire the architecture while exploring structures like the Sears Tower, (go to the top and walk on the acrylic surface) Union Station (where the first scene of the Untouchables movie was filmed) Picasso’s gigantic sculpture outside City Hall, Chagall’s Four Season’s mural, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I know that the conference will keep you very busy, but a “must” for all visitors is Millennium Park (just across the river from your hotel) Spend some time in the park and take your picture with the iconic “Chicago Bean”. By the way, I know the tower is now Willis, but to us in the city it will always be Sears.

Finally, I just wanted to give you the cultural options we have in case you may want to check them out (and if you have time, you should):

Chicago Art Institute. Recently voted the Best Museum in the World (111 S. Michigan Ave.)

Adler Planetarium (1300 Lake Shore Dr.) Admission: $12.00 per person

Shedd Aquarium (1200 Lake Shore Dr.) Admission: $6.00 per person

Field Museum (1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.) Admission: $18.00

Museum of Science and Industry (5700 S. Laker Shore Dr.) Admission: $18.00

Wrigley Field. Yes, they have tours (1060 W. Addison St.) Addison station on the subway Red Line. Tour tickets: $25.00 per person.

Theater. Only New York City has more theaters than Chicago. Enjoy a musical or a play one of the evenings. For more information, visit: www.broadwayinchicago.com

Sports. Chicago has professional sports teams in all major sports: The Cubs and White Sox in Major League Baseball (MLB), the Fire in Major League Soccer (MLS), the Bulls in the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Blackhawks in the National Hockey League (NHL), the Bears in the National Football League (NFL) and the Sky in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) There is no baseball season in November and the Bears will be away, but if you want to go to a very exciting professional sport and root for a Chicago team, these are the possibilities:

NBA: Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (October 31, 7:00 PM at the United Center)

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Winnipeg Jets (November 2, 8:00 PM at the United Center)

NBA: Chicago Bulls vs. Orlando Magic (November 4, 7:00 PM at the United Center)

College: Chicago Flames vs. Beloit Buccaneers (November 6, 7:00 PM at UIC Pavilion. College Hockey)

There is an exhibition rugby game between the United States Eagles and the New Zealand All Blacks on November 1, at 3:00 PM at Soldier Field Stadium

For tickets to any of these events, visit: www.findticketsfast.com

I hope you find this information useful and get to know my city a little better. I know the conference is very time-consuming, it is very interesting, and that is really why you are coming to Chicago; however, if you find that you have some free time, if you are coming to town early, or if you are staying for a few days after the conference, try to visit, see, taste, and enjoy some of the great places I have included in this piece. My experience as a conference-goer tells me that there are always situations when you need to talk to some colleagues, and you want to do it away from the rest; it is for those occasions that I have detailed the places to go in this article.

Once again, I am so sorry I will miss all of you in beautiful Chicago, but at least I now feel that I have welcomed you to my kind of town. Please feel free to share with the rest of us any other suggestions about Chicago that you may have.

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